Celebrations erupted in Bangladesh last week after mega soccer star Lionel Messi scored for the Argentina national team in a decisive World Cup match against Poland. Soccer-mad Argentines back home were moved to see a throng of Bangladeshis flying the national team’s white and blue colors in the middle of the night and half the world away. Some even wondered online if there was any way to pay back their support.
Actually, there might be. A week before the World Cup started, the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) on climate change agreed to create a loss and damage fund to help vulnerable countries like Bangladesh adapt to rising sea levels. Over 190 countries were represented at COP27 held in Egypt, so you can imagine negotiators fought even harder than World Cup players. In the case of the vulnerable country fund, they argued if richer developing countries, such as China, should get any money. Despite all the squabbles, everyone agreed that Bangladesh should get help.
The reason is that Bangladesh is home to 165 million people and sits on low land right on top of the Ganges Delta, the largest in the world, between the Himalayas and the Indian Ocean. That much water has been causing ever bigger floods in the last few years.
Negotiators still need to tackle how much loss is due to climate change as opposed to natural disasters. Again, Bangladesh is at the front of that field, called attribution science. Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, said that you can track the economic impact of rising sea levels by the thousands of people forced to migrate from coastal Bangladesh to the capital city of Dhaka. He said there are metrics to adopt, like one in a study showing that every $1 invested in weather information reaching farmers returns $50 in economic benefits. While rich countries are more focused on how to assess loss for insurance purposes, Bangladesh has its eye on the ball.
Just give me $1
“I keep saying that human beings are born entrepreneurs, that we have a creative capacity that can change the world, and we must unleash it,” said a famous Bangladeshi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and microlending pioneer Muhammad Yunus while visiting Colombia last month. He explained that starting a business is something you can do for yourself to help solve global problems in his “three zero” vision: zero global warming, zero wealth concentration, and zero unemployment.
Yunus described his grand vision as nothing less than creating a new civilization. When the reporter asked him how to do that, he said that you need to “move from seeing global warming as a global issue to an individual issue. This little demonstration is important to convince others. If you can create three zero clubs and become three zero people, one of 10 of them, then the next step will be creating three zero families, then zero communities…” That’s a plan you could root for even harder than for your favorite World Cup team.
Decarbonization by other means
Yunus also said that the war in Ukraine has affected everyone in the world, pushing global warming to the back of our collective minds. In fact, Bangladesh signed a $4.5 billion aid deal with the IMF last month to cope with the high energy prices caused by the war. Yunus wondered whether COP27 made any sense when conflict presents such urgent problems.
Climate writer Tim De Chant of website TechCrunch said that the COP27 loss and damage deal could push the private sector to embrace decarbonization as a business, helping end the long era of oil wars and starting what he called “decarbonization diplomacy.” It would be a shocking upset for Russia, but as any World Cup fan knows, upsets happen more often than you’d think.